Friday, February 3, 2012

Regarding SnowdropExplodes and Feminists Against Hugo Schwyzer


When I addressed the issue of SnowDropExplodes and his piece about rape yesterday, I assumed that it would be the last word, but unfortunately, I have to address this yet again.  I will start off by informing everyone that though I have left the option open to him, SE has decided to cease commenting on Womanist Musings. In an email, he stated the following: 
I also feel that I should respect their wish for me not to comment in future at your blog, which it seems to me should be a safe space for the people closest to womanism, and enough of them say that they feel that my presence in any form negates that.   I will continue to read and learn, but will not comment.   If it matters, do not feel that this is "shutting me down", any more than I would feel shut down by being refused entry to a women-only space.   I have always felt it is my place to listen more than talk.  
I will of course respect his wishes. I trust that this settles the matter of those who were concerned about the safety of this space. This includes those who don't actually read or comment on WM, but have decided to suddenly engage in a swarm because this is the hot topic of the moment.

When I created Womanist Musings, there were very few people talking about Womanism, and it certainly has a much higher profile in the blogosphere today than it did four years ago. This however does not mean that women of colour are uniformly treated with equality and consideration,  or that the label of Womanism is treated with any kind of dignity or respect.  Womanism isn't just feminism 2.0.  There is a lot more involved. And just because Alice Walker, who coined the term Womanism, identifies as both a womanist and a feminist does not mean that we all do.  There are various forms of womanism and each one has its own specific set of organizing principles. But then, feminists would know that if they gave a damn about the various ways in which WOC organize.

Womanism is an extremely important facet of my identity.  I think I have proven this over the years through my work on WM and Fangs For the Fantasy.  I have lent my voice to various issues over the years, which I have deemed important, but this has still won me no accord in the blogosphere.  Most recently, a Facebook page was started entitled Feminists Against Hugo Schwyzer in response to the Feministe debacle. I tweeted several times in support of this group and fended off an attack on Twitter because of my support.  When I was asked to write a piece in support of the group, I spent an entire weekend crafting a piece in response to Hugo's Jizz post on Jezebel.  I was up for over 24 hours researching and talking to various people to make sure that this piece was the best that I could make it. Granted, the piece I ended up writing was not the one asked for, because I was initially approached to write a piece about Hugo's effect on WOC -- as though the request in and of itself was not just as racist as anything Hugo has done.  Why is that only women of color are asked to talk about race issues?  Are we not qualified to write on other topics?  Do we have nothing else to contribute to the conversation?

There is also the fact that the name Feminists Against Hugo Schwyzer is exclusionary because many women who do not identify as feminist have problems with Hugo.  In fact, there was a discussion when the page was created as to whether the name should change so as to be more inclusive to those who do not identify as feminists, yet the name remained. After all, why let a little thing like respecting the identities of women interfere with speaking on behalf of all women?

I bring this up because this same group that I supported, Feminists Against Hugo Schwyzer, decided to start shit on Facebook and create a discussion entitled How liberal feminists deal with misogynistic predators in the feminist community. Even when they were informed that I don't identify as a feminist, they decided to keep calling me one, and belittle my identity as a womanist.  I was referred to as a "joke." Then I was informed that womanism and feminism are not mutually exclusive.  There is truth in that statement, but that determination is up to the woman who is carrying the label.  Some, like Alice Walker, choose to use feminism and womanism interchangeably, while  others have chosen to eschew the label of feminist because of the ongoing racism within the movement.  I fall into the latter group and have said so plainly FOR YEARS.

Incidents like this are exactly why I will never, in a million years, ever identify as a feminist again.  The moment you don't agree with the great feminist horde, they take it upon themselves to belittle you as a person. How feminist is that, exactly?  I didn't expect everyone to agree with my decision, but I did expect respect after the years that I have dedicated to social justice, and I especially expected it from a group that sought out my support and my writing for their cause.  But I suppose that is still too much for a disabled WOC to ask for. How dare they just take to their little corner to attack someone who has in the past supported them without any engagement?  Had it not been for a friend of mine, I never would have known about their little dive bomb mission.


Unlike what happened at Feministe, I did not close down my comment thread, and I allowed those who did not agree with me to post their comment without any interference from me.  My space was completely open to any form of engagement on this issue, but these feminists knew damn well that I would not tolerate attacks based on my identity, and so they took to Facebook to gather and reduce me.  This is yet another example of why it does not make sense for me as a WOC to call myself a feminist, or invest in their organizing activities. Every damn time I do, I get burned.

Feminism isn't for all women.  It's for a subset who agree to all think the same on their agreed upon issues, many of which exclude the lives and experiences of marginalized women and trans* communities.

If this were not the case, issues regarding WOC would appear on all feminist spaces.  When Amber Cole was taped having sex, even though it constituted child pornography and she was subject to massive slut shaming, it was left for WOC to come to her defense.  Mainstream sex educators such as Jaclyn Friedman had nary a word to say about Amber Cole, but plenty of Tweets on her new book and her latest article giving sex advice to a Black infant.  Oh, the hypocrisy.  It burns.

Finally, I want to address a point that I made on Facebook regarding the damage that the swarm is doing to blogging.  Many of us who run blogs are negotiating health problems or some form of disability.  Readers of this blog may well have guessed that I have not been well since about the beginning of December, but I have done my best to forge forward and continue my work in spite of it.  Stress is the last thing that I need, and anyone who has fibro, will tell you that stress is a huge factor in bringing on the mother of all flares.

The call out culture is damaging the blogosphere.  This is something I completely agree with Jill from Feministe on.  Critics of her post on Feministe went so far as to accuse her of exaggerating and faking her illness for sympathy, which is completely ableist.  People aren't actually having conversations when this occurs. What they have done is chosen a very specific position and chosen to force it down your throat at all costs.  They decide because they are in the supposed moral right, they can gather and behave like a mob.  Yes, I said it: MOB.  Issues are treated as though they are black and white; there is no room for nuance or an exchange of ideas.  There are people who move along from blog swarm to swarm happily because they relish the opportunity to vent and release anger.  In the end, that is all they are truly interested in, not the issues at hand.  I don't even recognize some of those complaining on Facebook as readers of WM, but they were sure quick to jump on the bandwagon and attack,  weren't they?  Far too many people are only interested in investing in the blog swarm and not the blogs, let alone the women who write them. 

Look around the blogosphere and you will see a decline.  As much as I have problems with several of the major feminist blogs, I am not happy to see the downturn that they have taken recently.  Women are either writing less or they are shutting down their blogs altogether due to exhaustion.  I know that there is the common belief that this is the result of dealing with patriarchal attacks, but I suggest to you that at least part of the issue is the pure exhaustion from dealing with underhanded attacks and swarms. I am not suggesting that we all have to agree with what every blogger says or does, but I am suggesting that this manner of engagement will one day clear out the spaces that many of us recognize, read, and comment on in order to share ideas.  It won't be the MRA's that bring down women's spaces; it will be women themselves if this sort of behaviour persists. I, for one, have had enough and have reached the end of my rope with this sort of shit. In short, I am exhausted beyond belief.

This behavior is counter to everything that WM is about.  I created this space to have conversations that simply don't occur very often and for people to challenge their various privileges.  I believe that all of us are imperfect beings and therefore will make mistakes and grow.

One of the accusations that has been thrown at me is the suggestion that I would not let a racist or a homophobe comment in this space.  Well, if you look through the archives, you will see that I have done just that on MULTIPLE occasions.  I have various reasons for doing so.  On many occasions, I have stepped in to correct regular commenters who have said racist, sexist, tranpshobic, ableist shit, firm in my  belief that we all make mistakes and that through conversation we can change belief systems or challenge privilege.  My commenting rules are a lot looser than many blogs. No one's hands are clean and righteous indignation, even when justified, does not change discourse. When I ban, I tend to ban the obvious troll after repeat engagement, or I simply re-write their comment in a suitably sarcastic manner.

Womanist Musings  is my space.  I have dedicated four years of my life to creating it.  It represents my joy, my anger, my political beliefs, and even my love. No one -- and I mean no one -- is more committed to this space than me.  My decisions or my speech may not always be celebrated, but they are my words and actions.  I have a right to control this space as I see fit.  After all of the years that I have invested into creating my online home, to see it once again defiled and attacked disgusts me. You are always free to disagree with me, and in fact I expect it and respect it, but to do so based on my identity or failure to conform to your expectations of how I should run my space will never be acceptable.  It is intellectually dishonest to claim to support women's agency and then attack in this form.